Michael Burgess lists three takeaways from the Kiwis' 16-0 loss to the Kangaroos last night.
1. Stephen Kearney's gamble backfires
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney chose not to select Issac Luke for this test - and he was missed badly. Even though Luke has had a mixed start to the year for the Warriors, he is the kind of player that could raise his game for a test match. Lewis Brown and Kenny Bromwich toiled hard in the hooking role, but the Kiwis lacked creativity, spark and polish from dummy half. It's a crucial position - no one touches the ball more than the No9 - and the New Zealand side needed a specialist there.
2. Gallen to the fore
In his return to the international arena, Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen was outstanding. He ran for a game high 225m and also contributed 31 tackles. Gallen was supported by James Tamou (136m, 14 tackles), Matt Scott (144m, 23 tackles) and Josh McGuire (120m, 18 tackles), who were the pick of the Australian forwards.
Their contribution meant that, for the first time in two years, the Kangaroos' forwards had the measure of the Kiwis pack.
3. Reasons for hope
The Kiwis were below par in terms of execution - but no one could question their commitment and courage. With such a weight of possession, other Kiwis team in the past might have folded, with big scorelines being racked up. But this squad never stopped, and stayed defensively strong throughout the entire 80 minutes. "We have great belief in this team and I guess that is what kept us going," said Tohu Harris. "We made it hard for ourselves at times but we never stopped trying."
Australian coach Mal Meninga also paid tribute to the Kiwis resolve.
"If we were down on troops and we put that similar effort in I'd be very proud of the guys," said Meninga.